Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Exercise Science


Public Health

First Advisor

Sara Wilcox


Introduction: There is growing and compelling evidence suggesting time spent in sedentary behaviors (SB) is a unique contributor to health risk that appears to be independent of time spent in moderate- and/or vigorous-intensity physical activity (PA). However, few studies have examined these associations in women and even fewer studies have included ethnic minority populations.

Purpose: The major objectives of this study were to: (1) describe patterns of objectively measured sedentary and PA behaviors and variation in these behaviors in African American (AA) adults; (2) assess the association between bouts of and breaks in SB and waist circumference risk, body mass index, and hypertension; and (3) examine AA women’s perceptions around SB and propose novel strategies to reduce these behaviors. Methods: Using a mixed-methods approach, five aims were addressed. To address major objectives and aims in Manuscript 1 and 2 (i.e. Objectives 1 & 2; Aims 1-3), sociodemographic and health-related variables were collected from 266 AA adults recruited from African Methodist Episcopal (AME) churches. Total time spent in sedentary, light-intensity, and moderate-to vigorous-intensity behaviors; time of day most sedentary and weekday vs. weekend day differences in SB; and total number of SB bouts and breaks in SB were examined by sociodemographic and health-related characteristics. Bivariate associations and logistic regression analyses tested the independent associations between bouts of and breaks in SB and obesity, hypertension, and increased waist circumference. To address Aims 4 & 5 in Manuscript 3, 32 overweight and obese AA women participated in three focus groups. Focus groups were digitally recorded, transcribed verbatim, and analyzed separately by two coders utilizing NVivo 9.

Results: Regarding Manuscript 1 and 2, most participants were obese, hypertensive, and had a substantially increased waist circumference. On average, participants spent 65% (9.5 hours/day) of waking time in SB, 33% (4.8 hours/day) in light-intensity PA, and

Regarding Aim 3, on average, participants took 93.2 ± 16.6 breaks from SB; each break lasted 3.3 ± 1.0 minutes and mean intensity of breaks from SB was 446.2 ± 81.2 cpm (light intensity). Total number of SB breaks was beneficially associated with obesity in women only and each additional break in SB was associated with a 5% decreased risk of obesity. Lastly, for Aims 4 and 5, focus groups indicated most women spent a majority of time at home and work engaged in SB. Culture, environmental influences, and life stressors were the most commonly cited reasons for engaging in SB. While relaxation, personal time and productive time were considered enjoyable aspects of SB, many women described disliking the health consequences associated with SB.

Conclusions: Few studies have examined the associations between total volume and patterns of SB and health risk in AAs. This dissertation presents both an objective and subjective analysis of the associations of SB and health risks in the lives of AA living in the south.

Included in

Public Health Commons